The Orc Problem

Rob Harding

Active Member
Yes, that’s the kind of project I meant.

I really wouldn’t want to read that, but I also feel like that wouldn’t be a particularly compelling story in and of itself. Shock for its own sake is often devoid of character driven drama. If their was character driven orc drama, I’d be on that right away
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I once wanted to write a fanfic based vaguely on the Argonautika, but with Orcs as main characters... too much orcs is hard to take.They are hell.
 

Odola

Active Member
I once wanted to write a fanfic based vaguely on the Argonautika, but with Orcs as main characters... too much orcs is hard to take.They are hell.
Altogether the "orcs as corrupted elves" is imho the most coherent, logical, fruitfull and interesting concept. They hate the sun and day while Moriquendi just distrust both. But whats left of their former relationship to the stars? Orcs seem not to mind them. They would hate Earendil's star though I would think. What are the relationsjip between the different generations? I would expect the first generation "fallen" orcs to be both more hatefull, resentful, dangerous and longer-lived while the further generations far more oportunistic like Shagrat and Gorbag. Do they hold their offsping in contempt just like Shelob her own? Are there any of the 1.st generation orcs left there somewhere at the top of command in Barad Dur? Do they hate and resent the Nazgul?
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I am happy to ignore any speculations of what orcs are or where their souls originally came from, they even may have different origins, some being former elves, some former men, some former demons, and some may not even have souls but only be similar to somewhat clever animals- creatures of the slavepits and mindcontrolled or hive-minded war-slaves could work like that . What interests me mostly is what they have become "now" , that is Orcs seeing themselves as Orcs. Quite most likely they themselves do not know or not care whatever else they are in theory but orcs or are used to ignore any such cosmological speculations.it is clear they hate and fear Elves mortally while they get along with some human types.I'd like to elaborate on their supposed kinship withbthe Drúedain though.

I also doubt there are any 1st generation orcs left by the third Age, that is if we do have some concept of orcish reincarnation - how much of their former existence do they remember?

Also we have contradicting accounts of their lifespan. We don't really see them being immortal.In fact they are said once to be shortlived compared even to humans... similar to the Drúedain who also are exceptionally shortlived humans. on the other hand we have a 140+ year old Bolg, so they at last DO have some long-lived families or clans?maybe their "nobility" is longer-lived? Similar to early Dúnedain perhaps?

I also see two thinking schools, the loyal fanatic, like Uglúk, and the selfish cynical opportunist like Shagrat and Gorbag. That is all we meet in the books... could there be more possible archetypes? I guess so, but which ones...
 
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Rob Harding

Active Member
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I am happy to ignore any speculations of what orcs are or where their souls originally came from, they even may have different origins, some being former elves, some former men, some former demons. What interests me mostly is what they have become "now" , that is Orcs seeing themselves as Orcs. Quite most likely they themselves do not know or not care whatever else they are in theory but orcs or are used to ignore any such cosmological speculations.it is clear they hate and fear Elves mortally while they get along with some human types.I'd like to elaborate on their supposed kinship withbthe Drúedainnthough.

I also doubt there are any 1st generation orcs left by the third Age, that is if we do have some concept of orcish reincarnation - how much of their former existence do they remember?

Also we have contradicting accounts of their lifespan. We don't really see them being immortal.In fact they are said once to be shortlived compared even to humans... similar to the Drúedain who also are exceptionally shortlived humans. on the other hand we have a 140+ year old Bolg, so they at last DO have some long-lived families or clans?maybe their "nobility" is longer-lived? Similar to early Dúnedain perhaps?

I also see two thinking schools, the loyal fanatic, like Uglúk, and the selfish cynical opportunist like Shagrat and Gorbag. That is all we meet in the books... could there be more possible archetypes? I guess so, but which ones...
THIS ^
 

Odola

Active Member
I am happy to ignore any speculations of what orcs are or where their souls originally came from, they even may have different origins, some being former elves, some former men, some former demons. What interests me mostly is what they have become "now" , that is Orcs seeing themselves as Orcs. Quite most likely they themselves do not know or not care whatever else they are in theory but orcs or are used to ignore any such cosmological speculations.it is clear they hate and fear Elves mortally while they get along with some human types.

I also see two thinking schools, the loyal fanatic, like Uglúk, and the selfish cynical opportunist like Shagrat and Gorbag. That is all we meet in the books... could there be more possible archetypes? I guess so, but which ones...
We see also the Great Goblin who is long lived or educated enough to remember Gondolin and has some vage sense of basic diplomacy to be officially offended at his captives being elf-friends.

Most of them cannot be humans, as humans do not fear the day. Gullum hates sun and moon, but he has had the ring. Half-orc do not fear the sun. Humans being the Children of the Sun, it takes a lot to make them hate the sun. But Moriquendi distrust and disdain it - see Eol - so the step to orcish fear is not far.
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I am not convinced, see Gollum does fear the sun as you say and he is technically a Hobbit, and Hobbits are technically humans.

I certainly agree that the Great Goblin is an interesting character, but i would deny there is any evidence he personally remembers Gondolin..
He is the only example of Orc Nobility we ever meet and i agree he is in his way very intelligent , sophisticated and educated. But... that does not prove him to be anything but a very clever Orc. I will still resist to consider anything canon of which JRRT himself was very reluctant and unsure. Inworld i see no reason.
 

Odola

Active Member
I am not convinced, see Gollum does fear the sun as you say and he is technically a Hobbit, and Hobbits are technically humans.

I certainly agree that the Great Goblin is an interesting character, but i would deny there is any evidence he personally remembers Gondolin..
He is the only example of Orc Nobility we ever meet and i agree he is in his way very intelligent , sophisticated and educated. But... that does not prove him to be anything but a very clever Orc. I will still resist to consider anything canon of which JRRT himself was very reluctant and unsure. Inworld i see no reason.
As far I do remember the Great Goblin recognises the Noldor swords by sight, as orcs do not have books with drawings, the implication that he remembers Gondolin is very strong imho.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Both swords were very unique and covered by old runes .All it proves is the Great Goblin could actually read.I find it highly unlikely that he was a more than 6000 year old orc who had personally been at Gondolin.

JRRT stated that " they (the orcs) appear to have been by nature short-lived compared with the span of Men of higher race".

So whatever their origin, Bolg is extremely old by orc standarts, most orcs are shortlived.6000+ - very unlikely.
 
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Odola

Active Member
JRRT stated that " they (the orcs) appear to have been by nature short-lived compared with the span of Men of higher race".

So whatever their origin, Bolg is extremely old by orc standarts, most orcs are shortlived.6000+ - very unlikely.
"Appear" does not equal "are", orcs seldom die a natural death, which might cause this "appearance" ;-)
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
BY NATURE shortlived does imply just that. Still don't prove anything, certainly no 6000 years old Goblin.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
Odala was arguing your ascertain that orcs are short lived as there has been no firm evidence presented for that claim I believe. By nature they may or may not be short lived. Based on the quote above, this remains unknown.

Regardless, the lifespan of orcs isn’t something the texts invite us to consider, save in that they are mortal cannon-fodder
 

Odola

Active Member
BY NATURE shortlived does imply just that. Still don't prove anything, certainly no 6000 years old Goblin.
As @Rob Harding has noted, the quote you've cited is ambivalently worded. And what does "by nature" mean? Does the violent "nature" of orcs - which leads to them to kill each other often enough when they do quarrel - count as "by nature" also?
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
That certainly is a point. So again we are at the point that we do not know what orcs are, or even if they have one single origin or possibly many.Yet still, for whatever reason they are shortlived in comparison to the high men, it is at last a valid raeson to doubt that the Great Goblin was all that ancient.
 

Odola

Active Member
That certainly is a point. So again we are at the point that we do not know what orcs are, or even if they have one single origin or possibly many.Yet still, for whatever reason they are shortlived in comparison to the high men, it is at last a valid raeson to doubt that the Great Goblin was all that ancient.
That I can agree apon, but the possibility is still there in the text. As you stated before we do not know much about orcish nobility. As this passage is written "by Bilbo" literaly, it certain suggest the Great Goblin knows those swords personally. This needs to be explain away by assuming he was well educated in history of ancient artefacts and/or ancient writing and still had so much personal involvement in things 6000 years old to react as personally offended as he did. Plain reading of the text suggests, he just knew them. This passage was probably written before Silmarillion and the Hobbit\LORT worlds merged. Still it is a valid text, as it has not been changed, and arguments can be build apon it. ;-)
 
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Timdalf

Active Member
I don’t think the text implies they are meant to represent our worse selves. If anything they are the elves’ worse qualities. And if that is the case, then the worst of the worst still have beliefs. Even about themselves.

To be a cynic or a loyalist involve belief (or lack of) in something.

My disappointment comes from not really knowing much of what true orcishness is. If we buy the meta narrative, then we only know of it from their enemies’ description. Which is less than favourable. Sure, this is likely because they are not a favourable people. Far from it. But if we buy into Tolkien's world, we have to buy that the stories we read are told by the victors. We get orcs through the filter of hobbits and Men. If a writer includes certain details, it's because they believe them to be important. If the Red Book of Westmarch includes certain traits of orcs over others, that is because only those were known to its authors and they were the details they felt saliant to tell for the reason of highlighting their enemies as bad.

I'm not saying orcs are misunderstood and are really the heroes, but there is language used to describe certain races, including orcs, (i.e. swarthiness and eye shape) that become recurring characteristics of what is negative. These attributes facilitate Othering. I firmly disagree with anybody who reads Tolkien's works as pro-racist or anything of the kind, but he has built a very firm world in which characters and cultures have ingrained worldviews. Tolkien may not be willfully Othering orcs based on physical attributes, but plainly his characters are capable of this. We see the worldview of a people most clearly with hobbits and their passions and pet-peeves. Paragraphs and attributed to the loves of hobbits. If we buy the frame, then we accept this is because the Red Book is largely hobbit-born then filtered through Men. If we can see their loves through what they chose to detail, then we also see what they count as ill. Physical descriptions included. Othering can come even from characters we like. It doesn't make them any less real, it makes them more. Sadly we only know one and not really the other.

I don’t want to project, I want to explore what we are given from the perspectives we are told to take them. And there are just gaps I wish were filled in. They may answer the problem of the orcs or make it worse. Alas, Tolkien never squared that circle
Sorry, Rob, you have it backwards. Orcs are not evil because of the way they look. The way they look is caused by their evilness. They "othered" themselves. Gollum is another example of this. He looks the way he does because he isolated himself in order to continue being evil.
 
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